Inside, one look will verify that Mazda has done an outstanding job taking the brand upmarket, particularly with the Signature edition.
Starting at $36,700 for the GS model, the CX-9 also comes in GS-L ($43,300) and GT ($48,500) trims as well as the Signature edition, featuring all the bells and whistles and priced at $51,500.
The 2019 edition has a more sophisticated feel in every area, while driving dynamics are enhanced with refinements to the suspension and steering systems, delivering more linear vehicle behavior along with better ride quality.
Inside, the CX-9 continues to evolve with front-seat ventilation now available along with a 360-degree monitor that uses four cameras to give a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings.
Additionally, Mazda Connect now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All CX-9 models feature the same turbocharged 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine makes 227 hp and 310 lb/ft of torque on regular fuel and 250 hp on premium unleaded.
Front-wheel drive is available on the entry-level GS with i-Activ AWD optional ($3,300) on the GS and standard across the rest of the lineup. Towing capacity is 1,588 kg (3,500 lb).
Natural Resources Canada’s fuel ratings are FWD 10.6/8.4 L/100 km city/highway and 11.6/9.1 for AWD.
The AWD system also comes with iActivsense features like radar cruise control with stop and go functions, forward sensing pedestrian detection and obstruction warning, lane departure warning system, lane keeping assist and high beam lighting control system.
The cabin is a thing of beauty with high-quality materials that give both the look and feel of luxury. With Nappa leather upholstery and Santos Rosewood-trimmed centre console and door switch panels, the cabin refinement is evident.
Both front and rear seats and the steering wheel are heated on the Signature model and the front seats now offer ventilation.
The styling is simple and clean with seating for seven, although the third row is best reserved for children, not unlike many other three-row SUVs.
Cargo volume is about average for a vehicle of this size — 2,017 litres behind the front seats, 1,082 behind the middle row and 407 litres behind the rear seats. Most buyers will likely have the rear seats folded flat most of the time for that extra cargo space.
Mazda engineers have improved interior quietness by enhancing the sound absorption within the ceiling and cargo area making it a very pleasant place, even on extended driving trips.
And speaking of driving, this is where the CX-9 excels over its competitors.
Unlike many SUVs, the CX-9 is actually a lot of fun to drive.
While some may question the horsepower numbers for a vehicle of its size, the fact is the CX-9 moves out well in almost all driving situations.
Power is impressive at low speeds, but drops off higher up on the rev counter.
But as I noted in a review of the 2017 model, Mazda engineers did this intentionally.
Through study they found that drivers wanted effortless acceleration with lots of torque and decent fuel-economy to boot.
They accomplished this by turbocharging their tried and true 2.5-litre engine with what they call a Dynamic Pressure Turbo that Mazda engineers say creates almost instant boost and demonstrates a 20 to 25 per cent quicker response than the traditional twin scroll turbo.
The end result, quicker power application and less turbo lag in a vehicle that is both agile and spirited to drive despite a fairly hefty curb weight of 1,987 kg (4,380 lb).
Mazda has built its reputation on producing compact and sub-compact cars and crossovers, but when you need room for up to seven passengers, have to carry that large load of cargo or tow a small boat or travel trailer, the CX-9 fits the bill nicely in a well-designed, fun-to-drive package.